denver botanic gardens history

It began as the dream of local gardeners, botanists and civic leaders to build an oasis in the middle of the city.

Aerial view of Denver

It became a reality in 1951 when members of the Colorado Forestry and Horticulture Association incorporated as the non-profit Botanical Gardens Foundation of Denver and hired legendary landscape architect Saco R. DeBoer to create a 15-year master plan. The charter for the Gardens was filed on February 3, 1951, making the Gardens an agency of the City of Denver.

The following year, the City of Denver designated 100 acres in City Park as the site for Denver Botanical Gardens (as it was called in the early 1950s) which were formally dedicated in 1954. However, the Gardens were unfenced and 'night diggers' stole and trampled plants, causing the Board of Trustees to look for a more secure site.

By 1958, the combined efforts of private citizens and the City and County of Denver set forth a plan that would eventually transform an old cemetery located on York Street between east 9th and 11th Avenues into one of the country's largest and finest botanic gardens.

The first planting at the York Street site began in 1959 and included roses, annuals, irises, daylilies, peonies, tulips, crocus and narcissus. That same year Mrs. Ruth Waring donated the elaborate mansion at 909 York Street to the Gardens. The mansion now serves as our administrative headquarters.

In 1966, the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory at the Gardens was dedicated. With the addition of this new indoor facility, which contained tropical and subtropical plants, Denver Botanic Gardens became a year-round attraction. Both Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory and the Waring House were declared Denver landmarks in 1973.

Located in the middle of the Mile High City, Denver Botanic Gardens was one of the first gardens in the country to emphasize native plants and to champion environmentally responsible practices, such as water conservation and biological control of pests.

Today, Denver Botanic Gardens continues this tradition at three unique sites: Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield and Mount Goliath. Each of these demonstrates the varied ecosystems of Colorado.

Most of all, Denver Botanic Gardens offers spectacular plant displays, unlimited opportunities for lifelong learning and research that help preserve Colorado's precious natural resources.